Funopticon

Jay Yao
September 29 - October 22, 2016

In the age of data, the Funopticon thrives in excess. A massive tangle of screens, monitors and discreet cameras, simultaneously interdependent and unaware of each other, comprise its patchy and mysterious architecture. Images amalgamate, diffuse, and travel through time at ridiculously accelerating speeds, condensing space and creating the myth of flatness. Inmate and watchman collapse into a single entity making anyone with a thumb and a smartphone implicated in the network's tacit operations. But the Funopticon also aspires for a brain to apprehend this expanse of data. It dreams up algorithms to be performed by artificial neurons that translate and process information through patterns,“hardwired ideologies”, that recognize, typify and learn. It educates itself again and again, like a manic autodidact, until it is able to interpret on its own. Surveillance spawns a scrutinizing and thinking artificial eye.

This eye, a combination of software and hardware, feeds data to a confident, self-determining brain-like programme, an artificial neural network, that provides us with an image that is so keenly self-aware of its pixelated provenance, and yet also so fastidiously obedient to protocol. Thus a typical Amorsolo composition--- re-staged, photographed, “thought through” this neural network and made to accumulate layer upon layer of color, texture, shape, and line--- feels and looks convincingly like an Amorsolo. Thumb, image, brain and eye conspire towards a relentless likeness; a representation fabricated from a machine's (un)erring mind. The speed by which an artificial brain could produce a classico-romantic Bathing Beauty would've pleased the enterprising National Artist.

It is this provenance of the bot-generated, command-executed image (effectively a photograph that has become a painting) that the Funopticon plumbs and probes. Reflecting on the intelligence and imagination of both machine and artist, it conjures a method that brings together human, image and automaton in an exercise of curiosity and chance. 

Jay Yao's show, "FUNOPTICON" at the Archivo 1984 Gallery is extended until November 11, 2016. The exhibit is now on its second run, featuring new works by artist-photographer Jay Yao.